Tag Archives: ATMega8

Alpha 2 is the humanoid robot you’ve always wanted

A small robot with a big brain.

After watching Robin William’s title role in “The Bicentennial Man” (1999), did you dream of having a humanoid robot of your own? One that walks, talks and performs various duties, just like a member of the family? Well, the time of having your own “Bicentennial Man” is almost here. Meet Alpha 2, the smart humanoid robot by Shenzen-based startup UBTECH Robotics.


UBTECH founder and CEO James Chow has devoted his career to creating intelligent robots for family use. With Alpha 2, Chow and his team of experienced robotics experts deliver a smart and interactive humanoid with social skills and practical household service. It’s easy to underestimate this small and cute robot as a toy, but Alpha 2 is touted to be smarter than your smartphone.

Alpha 2 is an all-in-one companion, personal assistant, tutor, in-home nurse, housekeeper and more. Using his Internet-connected brain with face and voice recognition, the bot can meet many of the daily needs for each family member. Its programmed conversation skills, general knowledge database and web search function makes it a great companion, tutor or helper around the house. You can ask Alpha 2 to make calls, check voice mails, read emails, send texts and control appliances, among countless other tasks.


Not only can he take care of office work, he can take care of you. Alpha 2 can remind you when medications need to be taken, as well as control smart appliances including lights, locks and set Wi-Fi-enabled alarms and security systems. For fun, Alpha 2 can read to children, play music, dance, take photos and videos and work out with you. He has 20 joints replicating human movement, equipping it with the widest range of motion of any consumer robot to date.


To get Alpha 2 alive and kicking, you simply connect it to your Wi-Fi network, teach it to recognize your face and voice, and download the accompanying mobile app for control and additional functions. At the heart of Alpha 2 is digital servo, an automatic control system that consists of a control board, a gear set and a motor. The humanoid is comprised of eight 8kg servos (head and hands) and 12 20kg servos (lower limbs), each driven by an ATmega8 MCU.

Beyond that, he is equipped with a Samsung Exynos 5260 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, a 3W stereo speaker, a number of sensors (accelerometer, touch and sonar), and runs the Android 4.4 OS. The cute companion has several RGB LEDs throughout his body, including his eyes, hands and chest, and offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. While the software is proprietary, UBTECH will provide an open API and SDK for Android app development.


Intrigued? Head over to Alpha 2’s Indiegogo campaign, where UBTECH Robotics has well surpassed its goal of $100,000. The first batch of units is expected to ship in February 2016.

Rewind: A look back at some of the original Arduino prototypes

While the shapes, colors and sizes of the earliest Arduinos may have varied, one thing has remained the same: Atmel at its heart.

During Memorial Day weekend, the first Arduino to be made in the U.S. was hand built by Limor Fried alongside Massimo Banzi in Adafruit’s New York City headquarters. The initial board off the production line — which seems appropriate to have been an Uno (meaning “one” in Italian) — comes just a few days after Banzi’s announcement at Maker Faire Bay Area of the company’s manufacturing partnership with Adafruit, the availability of the highly-anticipated Zero, as well as the launch of its new sister brand Genuino.


With the theme of “firsts” in mind, we couldn’t help but reflect upon the earlier years of Arduino and some of its prototypes. And upon conducting some research, we stumbled upon a photo album showcasing many of them. While their sizes, colors and shapes may have varied, one thing remained constant: they all had an Atmel chip at its heart. (As you can see, many of which powered by an ATmega8-16PU.)

So without further ado, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Arduino Prototype 0

At this time, the board was still called

At the time, the board was called “Programma 2005” as an evolution of the “Programma 2003.” (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Extreme v1

First version of the SMD Arduino. Only 200 of these boards were produced. (Source: M. Banzi)

The first version of the SMD Arduino. Only 200 of these boards were produced. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Bluetooth Prototype

The first prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth unit. The is module was never easy enough to use for beginner Makers, so only a couple were ever manufactured. (Source: M. Banzi)

The first prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth unit. The module was never easy enough to use for beginner Makers, and as a result, only a couple were ever manufactured. (Source: M. Banzi)

Custom Arduino Board – Lamp Controller

This custom Arduino features an iPod-like wheel sensor, an SMD Arduino, on-board RGB LEDs and three DSI outputs. (Source: M. Banzi)

This custom Arduino features an iPod-like wheel sensor, an SMD Arduino, on-board RGB LEDs and three DSI outputs. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Prototype 1

There it is: The first useable prototype ever created. As you can see, it was still called

There it is: The first useable prototype ever created. As you can see, back then it was called “Wiring Lite” and used as a low-cost module for wiring users. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Extreme v2

The second iteration of the Arduino USB board. (Source: M. Banzi)

The second iteration of the Arduino USB board. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Ethernet Prototype

(Source: M. Banzi)

(Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Bluetooth Proto 4

The pre-production prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth module. (Source: M. Banzi)

The pre-production prototype of the Arduino Bluetooth module. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino NG

Revision C of the Arduino NG did not have a built-in LED on pin 13. Instead, it featured two small unused solder pads near the labels

Revision C of the Arduino NG did not have a built-in LED on pin 13. Instead, it featured two small unused solder pads near the labels “GND” and “13.” (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Ethernet and PoE Prototype

(Source: M. Banzi)

In the album, this board was labeled “Secret Prototype.” Not longer after, Massimo would go on to spill the beans in its comment section. (Source: M. Banzi)

Arduino Zero

The Zero boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex-M0+ core, enabling the board to run much faster and pack more of a punch than its 8-bit counterparts.

The Zero boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 ARM Cortex-M0+ core, enabling the board to run much faster and pack more of a punch than its 8-bit counterparts.

Want more? You can browse through the entire photo album here.

3DFormer is a 3D printing pen for Makers

This easy-to-use, even easier-to-hold pen draws 3D models right in thin air.

While 3D printers may have stolen the buzz as of late, 3D pen makers aren’t too far behind in meeting the successes and mainstream appeal of their much larger siblings. In fact, handheld gadgets like the 3Doodler and Lix have already experienced multi-million dollar backings on Kickstarter over the last couple of years.


Hoping to be added to the list is new 3D printing pen 3DFormer, the brainchild of Austin-based Dim3printing LLC. Designed with students in mind, the device allows users to trace and draw 3D models right in thin air using FDM printing technology.

“3DFormer was developed for arts and STEM education projects. Kids may design and build artworks, and develop geometrical, engineering, and astronomical models for learning. 3DFormer may help kids to be more creative than ever,” the team writes. “Using 3DFormer together with other electronic or mechanical components, the inventions are instantly happening out of your imagination with a new look!”

Based on an ATmega8A, 3DFormer features a hexagon cylindrical shape with a 27mm grip width, and impressively, nonstop use of over two hours. Compatible with 1.75mm ABS and PLA 3D printers, users may feed the filament from either a standard 2.2lb spool or a stick. 3DFormer is looking to set itself apart from others on the market today through three key differentiators. These include continuous variable speed control, an ergonomic design for easy holding and precision in movement, and advanced cooling mechanisms to prevent clogging and ensure quick heat dissipation.


“The challenge in the 3D printing nozzle design is to maintain a high temperature to melt the ABS/PLA filament for extrusion while keeping temperature in filament feeding chamber low enough to avoid swelling in filaments. For a hand-operated 3D printing device, the form factor of the nozzle makes the challenge even bigger than that for the desktop 3D printers. On the other hand, to prevent injury from overheated nozzle we must keep outer shell temperature at 50 degree Celsius or lower.”

Beyond that, the pen is equipped with separate buttons to control the speed of the filament output and a minimum flow rate of 0.5mm per second, while a maximum filament flow rate is said to be upwards of 20mm per second. At this rate, its creators note that the extruded filament volume lets users deposit multi-layer plastics on a two-dimensional surface for layered structures and enhanced strength. What’s also nice is that the fan-free 3DFormer is super quiet, making it a welcomed addition in any classroom.


“We believe this is the right product for both 3D drawing fun and classroom practice,” explains Mr. Bin Hu, Dim3printing CEO. “Launching the 3DFormer on Kickstarter will help us to smooth mass production and get the product to our long waiting customers sooner.”

Those interested in a 3D pen can head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the team is currently seeking $20,000. Shipment to early bird backers is expected to begin in May 2015, with full-out delivery slated for June 2015. In the meantime, you can see it in action below.

Amigo is a navigation aid for recreational SCUBA divers

The buddy system just got smarter. 

Created by Tim O’Brien of New Zealand-based Aquacoustics, the amigo is a navigation aid for recreational SCUBA divers. Unlike other devices on the market today, the amigo is primarily designed to operate between dive buddies to assist in maintaining buddy contact, particularly in low visibility. The AVR based unit will also prove useful in both return path navigation and missing diver search.


After review of dive accidents, it has been found that buddy separation is one of, if not the, most frequent contributors to accidents, injuries and fatalities. Diving in buddy pairs not only enhances the recreational aspect of the activity, but more importantly, is an integral skill essential to ensuring the availability of an alternative air supply and someone to lend a hand in identifying and resolving problems — whether an equipment malfunction, cramping or entanglement.

However, maintaining buddy contact can be a difficult task, especially in moderate to poor visibility or in adverse lighting conditions — even for very experienced divers. This can be compounded by currents, the limited field of view provided by your mask, any restriction of movement due to your exposure suit, hood and cylinder, and a change in the perception of sound under water. And so, the amigo was conceived.

The amigo was designed to overcome the challenges of deep sea diving with an immediate, clear visual indication of a buddy’s whereabouts with just a single press of the mode switch and a simple 360 search. The easy-to-use device is comprised of a miniaturized low-powered 40 kHz ultrasonic transceiver, and is based on an ATmega8, which is tasked with battery management, channel control, updating the background noise measurements, recording key operating parameters, managing operating timing cycles to enhance your safety, detecting whether the device is submerged, as well as providing functionality to the user operated mode switch.


“In transmit mode, it sends ultrasonic pulses that radiate away from the unit, much like the surface ripples that spread from a stone dropped into a still pond. In receive mode, your amigo provides directionally sensitive detection of received ultrasonic pulses, selectively amplifies these, and extracts valid transmission signals from background noise using real-time digital signal processing. Valid signal information is further processed to provide linear range and directional information on the LED display,” O’Brien writes.

According to the Maker, the device’s battery life has been measured at more than 50 hours of actual dive time from a single charge. The internal battery is rated for at least 300 charge/discharge cycles, while recharging takes just about two hours via USB or AC charger provided. Furthermore, when the amigo is turned off, it consumes virtually no power and has a shelf life of at least 12 months from a fully-charged condition subject to ambient storage temperature.

Want to learn more? Dive into the details here.

Devising a DIY Walkman-like USB HID

Since most cheap keyboards lack a set of extra buttons, Pengu Robotics decided to craft their own USB human interface device using an ATmega8 MCU.


Not only does it resemble a retro Walkman from the ‘80s, but is equipped with a series of buttons: forward, previous, play/pause button as well as a volume knob. Each of these functions are standard in terms of USB specification, so no driver is required.


Rounding out the full DIY effect, the Maker wrote its own HID descriptors, connected the buttons and housed the components inside a 3D-printed case.

Want to create your own USB multimedia controller? Instead of using an ATmega8, Hackaday suggests using an Arduino Leonardo or Micro (both of which are based on ATmega32u4), or Due (SAM3X8E) — where this functionality is already built-in.

MIDI dot-matrix printer does the Hackerena!

There is no doubt that you remember the inescapable ‘90s hit, The Macarena. The pairing of a catchy beat and a simple dance turned the Los Del Rio smash hit into a national phenomenon. Now, 20 years later, we can reminisce about the tune all thanks to one Maker and his MIDI compatible dot-matrix printer.


A hacker by the name of MIDIDesaster has made a habit of turning dot matrix printers into musical devices. Previously on Bits & Pieces, we covered an ingenious DMP cover of the Rocky theme, Eye of the Tiger.

And so, our pal MIDIDesasater has returned — this time bringing back warm memories of Saved by the Bell and Bill Clinton with his newest rendition of a classic pop culture hit.

The modified printer uses an ATmega8 MCU to interpret inbound MIDI data and then feeds the information to an FPGA that essentially tunes the printer.

Though you can find an entire playlist of MIDIDesaster’s songs here, we decided to compile a few of our other favorites below… Disclaimer: Don’t blame us if you end up dancing at your desk or find these melodies stuck in your head for days!

Toccata and Fugue by J.S. Bach

DOOM E1M1 Theme

Having a Blast by Green Day

Everlong by Foo Fighters 

Hysteria by Muse 

Forrest Gump Theme


The all-in-one FABtotum has arrived!

When the FABtotum launched on Indiegogo last year, it almost seemed too good to be true. The team of Makers behind the Italian startup designed a fully-functional, hybrid additive/subtractive CNC device that was capable of printing, cutting, milling and scanning.


As the world’s first all-in-one, low-cost desktop personal fabrication device, it was no surprise when the crowdfunding campaign garnered nearly $590,000 — well over its original $50,000 goal.

Earlier this month, the FABtotum team began dispersing their creations to early-adopting backers. “Today we celebrate a year-long effort that culminated with today’s event,” said FABtotum CEO Marco Rizzuto. “With the launch of the FABtotum, we salute the birth of a new rapid manufacturing paradigm.”


And, similar to a number of other 3D printers and CNC devices which are based on AVR XMEGA and megaAVR microcontrollers, FABtotum’s main board is powered by an ATmega1280 while an ATmega8 lies within the printer’s hybrid head.

While FABtotum is capable of 3D printing objects with the common fused filament fabrication (FFF) technique, exploring design and shape possibilities has never been faster (or cheaper for that matter). With a 210x240x240 mm build area, and a 24% print-to-printer size ratio, the FABtotum is already a solid choice when picking out a high-end printer.

However, sometimes 3D printing is just not enough. Luckily for Makers, the device boasts a dual-head with an engraving/milling spindle motor that can be used to accomplish a wide range of machine operations on many common materials including wood, light aluminum or even brass alloys.


The fabrication device’s detachable head “can accommodate another subtractive or additive head on top, such as a more powerful motor, a small laser diode module for paper cutting, a pick and place clamp or a syringe for scientific applications. FABtotum could be even used for complex coil winding.”

Equipped with 8GB of built-in memory, FABtotum is capable of printing not only without being connected to a computer, but from cabled LAN, wireless LAN and remotely from the Internet. To put icing on the cake, a high-speed, medium-quality laser scanner is included to enable the FABtotum to recreate objects as small as a coin. With the laser incorporated into the design system, the reverse engineering prospects are seemingly endless.


Those who attended the recent World Maker Faire in New York may have noticed the FABtotum on display in the 3D Printing Village. Arduino Co-Founder Massimo Banzi even dubbed it the “coolest 3D printer” at the show.

So, who’s ready to print, cut, mill, scan, manipulate, rinse and repeat? For those interested exploring this all-in-one device, head on over to FABtotum’s official page here.


ATmega8 powers this pool cleaning robot

Pools are great, especially in these summer months. Cleaning them, however, not so much. A Maker by the name of David Gironi has simplified this process by powering an automated pool cleaner with an Atmel ATmega8-controlled timer.


James Hobson over at Hackaday alerted us to Gironi’s Atmel-powered cleaning unit. After the Maker’s store-bought pool cleaning unit failed, in true DIY fashion he decided to employ some technology to fix the robot on his own. The project is broken down into two parts, the ATmega8-based timer and the underwater cleaning robot.


According to the Maker, the ATMega8-powered timer alternates between a “working” and “pause” periods. As a result, Gironi can run the robot at a predetermined interval of days, for any designated time period, i.e. 30 minutes. The out-of-water timer is responsible for converting 220VAC to low voltage DC for the robot. Apart from the timer, the robot itself features two motors. One of the motors pumps the water through the unit to filter it, the other to maneuver the cleaner under the surface.

To delve deeper in the Maker’s design, head over to his in-depth blog piece here.

Barobot is an Atmel-based cocktail mixing robot

Barobot – powered by Atmel’s ATmega328 and ATmega8 microcontrollers – is an open source device that pours cocktails by mixing alcohol, soft drinks and sodas. It holds up to 12 bottles, and, according to its creators, is capable of pouring a drink with military accuracy.

In addition, Barobot features over 1,000 cocktail recipes, allowing users to create new ones on the fly. All can be easily accessed via a custom coded app on a tablet touchscreen or smartphone.

“Barobots frame – made of either deep black or transparent acrylic glass, comes in either a self assembly kit or an assembled ‘plug and pour’ version,” a Barobot rep explained in its recent Kickstarter post.

“The flat-pack self assembly kit requires no advanced skills or tools (it’s great fun to put together by itself!). Barobot is also illuminated with over 100 individually controlled LEDs that might be set to a number of light-themes or even synchronized to music.”

On the hardware side, both the carriage board and main board are based on Atmel’s popular ATmega328 MCU. The chips are tasked with collecting and relaying information from sensors as well as giving commands to actuators (motor and servos).

 Meanwhile, the other 12 boards are known as “u-panels” and powered by tiny ATmega8 MCUs. Their primary purpose? Operating 96 LEDs on top of the robot (for bottle and Barobot interior illumination).

“All the PCBs communicate via I2C and ISP protocols in a distributed manner. One of the advantages of this setup is that all those independently operated LEDs that can illuminate the frame and individual bottles in a myriad of different ways,” the rep added.

In terms of software, the PCBs run in Arduino C++ code.

The tablet app – written in Android Java – features:

  • Browsing drink recipes database (shows only cocktails that are possible to create using installed ingredients)
  • Choosing drinks basing on: flavor, ingredients, color and strength
  • Proposing random cocktail recipe (“I feel lucky”)
  • Composing new drinks and adding them to the database
  • Pouring drinks ordered remotely (Sofa server)
  • Showing history of drinks orders defining what ingredients/bottles are installed
  • Defining external ingredients (i.e. not installed in Bartender)
  • Setting light themes generating new light themes
  • Calibrating all aspects of Barobot operation

Interested in learning more? You can check out Barobot’s official website here.

SmartWood goes old school on Kickstarter

SmartWood – which recently hit Kickstarter – is a lineup of smartphone controlled models powered by Atmel’s ATmega8 microcontroller (MCU).

“No technical skills are necessary to assemble and use a Smartwood model, even if you’ve never built a robot before,” a SmartWood rep explained. “It’s affordable, readily expandable and the perfect hobby to do with your kids or even on your own.”

Aside from Atmel’s ATmega8 microcontroller, key technical specs and features include:

  • Onboard 5V regulator
  • Power supply voltage: 5-9V
  • DC Motor Driver up to 2A per channel
  • Supports up to 8 Servos
  • Built in LED connected to D13
  • Battery level monitoring
  • Master on and off switch
  • Compatible with the Bluetooth Module supplied with the controller

Currently, the following five SmartWood models are available on the crowd funding website: MiniBot, Crawler, Dragster, Truck and a Kickstarter special edition vehicle.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered SmartWood? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.